What a Good Working Interview Looks Like

Dr. Chris PhelpsBlog

Working interviews are not all bad. There are many benefits if done correctly. What benefits can they provide?

Gives potential employees a chance to see and learn about your office phone and computer systems.

Even if someone has worked with a similar system in another environment, there’s no substitute for getting to know the system during the course of a working day. Your existing employees can teach the candidate a little about the system and see how quickly she learns to use it. A working interview can often help weed out people who aren’t as tech-savvy as their resume suggests.

Lets the Candidate Meet the People She’d Be Working with.

A day-long working interview will give the candidate a better feel for how your office works and whether she’d be a good fit. Often, after a working interview, it’s the candidate who will decide to withdraw her application rather than the office that decides not to hire her. Working interviews let candidates decide whether they’ll fit in or not before you go through the trouble and expense of hiring her.

Lets You See if the Candidate Seems at Home in Your Office.

Some people just fit seamlessly into the flow of your office. Others seem awkward and unhappy from day one. A good working interview allows you to see if your office is the right place for the candidate.

Gives You a Chance to Test the Candidate’s Knowledge.

During a working interview, you and your staff will have many opportunities to ask the candidate job-specific questions and gauge her knowledge. “This patient isn’t sure if her insurance will cover the procedure. What would you do?”  “How would you convince this patient to make a follow-up appointment?”  The working interview quickly shows whether a candidate has the right instincts for the job.

What a Working Interview Can’t Be

While working interviews are a great way to see if a candidate for a job can work with your technology, procedures and staff, you have to be careful how you structure them. If your working interview is more work than interview, you could run afoul of federal and state labor laws, and even of the IRS. Here are some things your unpaid working interview can’t be:

  • It can’t provide you with profit. Some practitioners have used ‘unpaid interviews’ to basically act as substitute desk staff or hygienists while regular employees are on leave. This is not legal. If someone is doing actual, valuable work for your practice, you have to pay them.
  • It can’t last for multiple days or have an unclear end date. If you have someone come in for a single day to see if they’re a good fit, that’s one thing. If you have them at an ‘unpaid interview’ for several days or weeks? You’ve probably crossed a line.
  • You shouldn’t have them treat patients. Your patients expect to receive expert care, not to act as guinea pigs for your hiring process. Having a non-employee treat patients opens you up to lawsuits from both the patient and the candidate in the event something goes wrong.

Basically, if you use common sense and are actually interviewing a candidate rather than putting them to work, you should be able to structure an unpaid working interview that gives you important feedback without violating the law. However, if you’re unsure whether you’ve structured your interview properly, check with your state department of labor to make sure.

Get to Work!

In general, a working interview should be the final stage of your hiring process. You’ll offer them to, at most, two or three candidates. However, the insight that you and your staff gain from the process should help you make a clear decision on who to hire. In addition, working interviews help your staff become familiar with your new employee before you make a formal job offer. That means that existing staff are more likely to welcome the new member of your office team and help her during the training period.

In the end, it’s this reaction that makes working interviews a really useful tool. Not only do they help you pick the best candidate for a job, but they also smooth the transition for your existing staff so that your office continues to serve patients well, even after staff changes.

Originally published in Remin Media